Friday, September 7, 2012

Mountain Dogs: Salkantay Trek Day 2

The guides judged our trekking paces on day one and told us at dinnertime that on day two, which was going to be much harder, that there would be horses available for the first half of the day.  He recommended to the Americans (me, the boo, and two girls from DC & NY) that we utilize this opportunity since the first half of the day was four hours of intense uphill trekking.  I wasn't even offended.  I gladly volunteered myself to be carried up the mountains and I don't regret my decision. 

Breakfast was eaten at 6:30am and we departed for trekking, or in my case horse back riding, at 7:00am.  Our breakfast consisted of a sweet pancake with caramel sauce, toast, and this special quinoa hot drink.  It was my favorite breakfast item all trip.  My stomach was troubled that day either from the different foods or the altitude, so I was not loving the idea of spending 10 hours in the wilderness.  Of course then this little guy came out and made me feel all better.

We stood waiting for our horses to gather, and our group got on and started trotting up the mountain.  Maybe trotting is the wrong word...more like we drudged up the mountain.  If I had an international cell phone I would've called the SPCA on myself.  I felt really bad for my horse because the climb was hard.  So hard.  My horse kept wandering off the trail which was funny but scary since we weren't on a nice flat plain and then he'd stop and just sigh because he was tired.  That just goes to show how incredibly hard the first half of day one was.  Four hours of uphill climbing done in two hours by the horses who were POOPED by the end.  Pretty sure I would've jumped if I had to do it on my own two legs.

Needless to say, the views were better on day two.  We spent about an hour climbing through a boulder field until we reached the pinnacle at 4,600 meters which is 15,091 feet to us Americans who use the only different measurement system in the world.  At the pinnacle we waited for the real champions, the two South Africans in our group who climbed the first half not on horse legs. 

Once we were all together, our guide (Papi) told us about the famous coca leaves and their meaning to the Andean people.  Now, we had already been drinking coca tea, eating coca candy, coca chocolate, and dumping coca leaves pretty much into every beverage we consumed.  It tastes like green tea, but it's the same ingredient used to make cocaine.  Although cocaine is mostly chemicals, we still couldn't bring coca leaves back to the US.  Papi taught us how to chew coca leaves (like a Peruvian baseball player) and had us use three coca leaves (to symbolize the three levels of the world: underworld, present world, and afterlife) to make an offering to the mountain gods aka apu gods. 

After our celebrations on the pinnacle we had to continue to hike another six hours to get to our second campsite.  They told us that the second half of the day would be easy, all downhill.  It was all downhill all right...super downhill, to the point where I was squatting in almost every step.  We stopped for lunch at another rest station.  In my opinion it was the best lunch of the trek.  We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, noodle soup, garlic bread, rice, and incredibly JELLO.  I'll never understand the mystery of how our cook made jello in the mountains.  We also drank another form of chicha, chicha morada, which tasted almost like pomegranate juice.  And, this cool dude named "doggy" kept me company.

Our lunch spot housed another furry friend, which was not exactly a "friend" to the Peruvians, but a future dinner they were fattening up.  Guinea Pigs are pets in USA and a tasty treat to Peruvians.  There was one at our lunch spot casually hanging out and our guide pointed out that he was going to be tasty once he fattened up a little bit.  I can say I didn't try Guinea Pig but I did see it on a few menus.  We took a rest at another station an hour or so later which was flocked with trekkers, chickens, and dogs.  

Three hours of intense downhill trekking later, I started to lose my cool yet again.  I was becoming miserable, and was cursing trekking while second guessing my decision to do a five day trek.  My toes had blisters from being pushed to the front of my boots, my quads were on fire, and my ankles were sore from twisting on the loose rocks I walked upon.  Our second guide, Roger aka Mami, kept me company while I trudged along.  Only a few tantrum bursts until we reached our second campsite Collapampa, which featured a soccer field and showers powered by glacier water.  I attempted to take a glacier shower only to get my hair wet, scream, and run out.  

Our second night was not nearly as cold as our first, but the toilet situation was a downgrade from the first day.  Dinner was fantastic as usual:  spaghetti and meat sauce, soup, and some other specialties.  Pre-dinner snacks featured these amazing fried banana pocket guys that were super delicious.  I was so happy that our second day was over, because the rest of the trek was much less challenging than the first two days.  We had conquered the beast, and were going to continue downward to the Inca Jungle onto Machu Picchu.

1 comment:

  1. Salkantay Trek is the alternative to the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was recently named among the 25 best Treks in the World, by National Geographic Adventure Travel Magazine.